Protesters reportedly tore down on Sunday the fence made by local authorities to prevent GraceLife Church members from worshipping prompting the government to send 200 armed riot police in response. None of the church's congregants were present when the incident occurred.
The Blaze reported that the Alberta Health Services have physically closed the GraceLife Church by preventing access to their building in Edmonton, Alberta last Thursday. In line with this, the access roads to the building were closed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The media outlet cited tweets made by local news outfit Global Edmonton and Video Journalist Laura Krause on the matter.
Global Edmonton said the building was physically closed with "fences" as a result of the church's alleged "flouting the province's COVID-19 health restrictions." While Krause said that the local police are "controlling traffic at every entrance" of the building and have even "completely blocked off" the north entrance.
About 400 protesters gathered to sing hymns and listened to Bible readings outside the building, the Edmonton Journal noted. But as the crowds grew, support for the pastor was expressed and, later on, some started removing the fences. Organizers told the said persons to stop and "leave the fence alone!" but persisted. The riot police was then dispersed to control the crowd.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, representing GraceLife Church and Pastor James Coates, emphasized that church members were not present when the protesters tore the fence down. In a statement, the JCCF said in behalf of the church:
"Grace Life Church appreciates the public outpouring of support to fully open churches in Alberta. Grace Life Church congregants were not at the protest that occurred on Sunday, April 11, 2021 near the Church’s facility. Grace Life Church recognizes the place for peaceful protest within the context of a democracy."
According to Bridge City News Director Hal Roberts in a tweet, the organizers said that those who took down the fence were "not associated with the peaceful protest" they started with.
"Organizers say people not associated with the peaceful protest are trying to tear down the fences at GraceLife church in Spruce Grove, AB. They are yelling 'Leave the fence alone!'," Roberts said on Sunday.
The event viraled in social media and was covered by local news outfits. Rebel News' Ezra Levant said in his tweet that when the church was closed the "police raided it, turned it into an armed garrison, and occupied it" but still the members of the congregation came to worship as shown on Sunday's gathering that became unruly.
"This isn't really about Covid, this is really about how the spirit of the age really wants to treat the church," Author Steve Deace commented on the issue retweeting a post made by Levant that reported the arrival of the police.
This isn’t really about Covid, this is really about how the spirit of the age really wants to treat the church. https://t.co/na9xX2FBjB
— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) April 11, 2021
Levant reported that the sight at Edmonton of the protesters tearing down the face and the riot police stopping them was an unbelievably happening in Canada.
"After the Christians tore down the fence that the government had built around the Edmonton church, the police sent in 200 heavily-armed riot police. That's the church building you see there. This is China stuff, Iran stuff. But it's happening in Canada," Levant said.
The Blaze cited a CBC News interview of the lawyer of GraceLife Pastor James Coates, John Carpay, where he condemned the government for the dispersal of the riot police as "draconian and aggressive."
"I'm very disappointed to see this kind of draconian and aggressive enforcement of health orders when these health orders themselves are being challenged in court. It shows a very aggressive government that is not answering questions about its policies, but wants to push its weight around and try and make an example out of GraceLife Church," Carpay said in the interview.
(Update (April 13, 2021): Edited to include the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms' statement clarifying that none of GraceLife Church's members were present in the protest that led to the tearing down of the fence. An earlier version mistakenly reported that church members were there when it happened. None of them were present. We apologize for the mistake and the confusion it might've caused.)